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Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (The Criterion Collection)

Jean Gabin , René Dary , Jacques Becker    Unrated   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Amazon.ca

Grisbi isn't the hero's name but a bit of French slang meaning "loot," which is what drives this elegant Gallic crime thriller. Jean Gabin (Grand Illusion) stars as Max, a suave, smooth, elder statesman of a gangster who still manages to hook a pretty young damsel on his arm when he strolls into his favorite restaurants and nightclubs. Max belongs to the old world of criminals, where a romantic code of loyalty rules, but he's confronted by the postwar generation of ruthless, ambitious thugs when affable drug dealer and aspiring mob boss Angelo (Lino Ventura) discovers the secret of his loot. He strikes at Max's weak link, his thickheaded best friend and partner Riton (René Dary) and delivers an ultimatum: the money or the man. Director Jacques Becker (Antoine et Antoinette) takes his time with the tale, turning such digressions as a simple meal or an informal consultation into a fully realized scene with a rhythm and a drama all its own. He also enriches the film with a wonderful gallery of characters (including a small but delightful turn by young Jeanne Moreau as a pouty gold-digging chorus girl). The film sometimes dawdles but never drags, and every scene is energized by Gabin's cagey, confident Max, a worldly figure of grace and dignity who turns ruthless when a friend's life is at stake. --Sean Axmaker

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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
If there is one scene that explains the enduring appeal of 'Touchez Pas Au Grisbi' (basically 'don't touch the loot'), it is this: Max (Jean Gabin at his most Mitchum-esque), an aging hood who has pulled off a massive airport robbery and plans to retire quietly to the country, sits in his apartment one night with his old friend, the somewhat lunk-headed Riton (Rene Dary). Riton's girlfriend (Jeanne Moreau) has left him for a young gangster, Angelo (Lino Ventura in a sensational debut), whom she has informed of the job, and who is trying every means possible to snatch the gold.
So this scene is of crucial generic urgency, with rippling consequences for the development of the plot. What Becker films is entirely without urgency or consequence. In complete silence, he follows the middle-aged men as they enter the apartment, sit down, prepare a light supper, eat and talk; Max then gets up, takes out mattresses and pillows for his friend's bed like a good chambermaid, undresses in the bathroom, brushes his teeth, Riton likewise; then they both go to bed. This beautifully understated, intimate and domestic scene does not replace the crime genre, but co-exists in paralell with it, showing what is at stake.
This split defines the movie, from the conflict between older and younger characters (and men and women); between Max's affable respectability and his latent sadism; between bright interiors of oppressive theatrical artifice and dark outdoor locations; between static scenes where nothing much happens and jolting bursts of brutal violence and action. You even find it in the brilliant closing car chase, as thrilling location work intercuts with Hitchcock-style back projection.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
Gabin is an aging gangster who has stolen gold bullion from Orly airport and wants to fence it so he can retire. But a rival gangster has other ideas and the rest of the tale deals with beaucoup double-cross, treachery and a final death-dealing confrontation. The Fox Lorber packaging is misleading--a very young Jeanne Moreau does not have a starring role, only a minor supporting one. However they have atoned for this by releasing a sharp, crystal clear print with new, highly visible sub-titles. Gabin is the star here giving a virile magnetic performance and showing why he was a top star in France for over four decades.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A film of brilliant details Dec 25 2011
By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
As Truffaut stated, this is really more a film about friendship and aging than about gangsters.

Jean Gabin is brilliant as Max, the elegant, dignified underworld leader who is growing tired,
and wants to retire quietly off his last score. This is a film that lives in the brilliant human
details. We never see the big heist itself - it's already over when the film starts. But we do see
Gabin brushing his teeth, looking at the bags under his eyes in the mirror, etc.

Now it's all about finding a way to close the books on a career, and still protect his best friend
and colleague, who becomes a target when other mobsters want to get their hands on the take.

The story itself could be called thin, but Becker fills it with so many telling human moments and
details that I was touched and involved.

Yes, there were a few places where the plot, logic, or motivation holes bugged me just a touch.
However, I suspect I'll warm to this even further on a eagerly anticipated second viewing.

Criterion do their usual superior job with the transfer.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be Cool, kid. March 7 2004
Format:VHS Tape
Jean Gabin plays Max, a gangster on his way out of the game, and they don't come much cooler. Max is something of a cross between Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra. This 1954 French film, whose complete title is loosely translated as "hands off the loot", is full of double breasted suits, girls with bright lipstick and short hair and hip dialogue heavily sprinkled with "daddy-o" and "lets split". Max is too old to be chasing the girls now and knows it - he just wants to go home to bed. His partner, looking like a French Clark Gable past his prime still has a weak will for the pretty showgirls and tries to put the impress on one by telling her that the Orly Airport gold heist was pulled by he and Max. Her real boyfriend soon gets the word and the struggle for the loot is on. Girls get slapped, guys heads are used to open closed doors and Colt .32 pistols are tucked in belts. However their isn't much "caper" to this crime flick and the action gun battles are somewhat amatuerish in the style of '50s American TV. It is easy to see however how this film influenced everything from "Oceans 11" to "Heat". So it is well worth a look, can you dig it? I knew that you could.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The gangster film as ghost story of middle-age and loss. Dec 14 2001
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
If there is one scene that explains the enduring appeal of 'Touchez Pas Au Grisbi' (basically 'don't touch the loot'), it is this: Max (Jean Gabin at his most Mitchum-esque), an aging hood who has pulled off a massive airport robbery and plans to retire quietly to the country, sits in his apartment one night with his old friend, the somewhat lunk-headed Riton (Rene Dary). Riton's girlfriend (Jeanne Moreau) has left him for a young gangster, Angelo (Lino Ventura in a sensational debut), whom she has informed of the job, and who is trying every means possible to snatch the gold.
So this scene is of crucial generic urgency, with rippling consequences for the development of the plot. What Becker films is entirely without urgency or consequence. In complete silence, he follows the middle-aged men as they enter the apartment, sit down, prepare a light supper, eat and talk; Max then gets up, takes out mattresses and pillows for his friend's bed like a good chambermaid, undresses in the bathroom, brushes his teeth, Riton likewise; then they both go to bed. This beautifully understated, intimate and domestic scene does not replace the crime genre, but co-exists in paralell with it, showing what is at stake.
This split defines the movie, from the conflict between older and younger characters (and men and women); between Max's affable respectability and his latent sadism; between bright interiors of oppressive theatrical artifice and dark outdoor locations; between static scenes where nothing much happens and jolting bursts of brutal violence and action. You even find it in the brilliant closing car chase, as thrilling location work intercuts with Hitchcock-style back projection. This disparity between the real and ideal gives the film its melancholic, philosophical heart, and gives the climax an over-powering force, set in the quiet countryside to which Max wished to retire, and which can only offer backdrop to a bloodbath.
Critics have found in 'Grisbi', a gangster film about loyalty, treachery, collaboration, surveillance, torture, clandestine activities, secret hideouts, rural slaughter and military hardware, some kind of allegory for the Nazi Occupation of France a decade previously. This explanation is attractive because the period had been tacitly removed from the public sphere. But there is nothing so portentously grand in Becker's characteristically light handling. Max and the gangsters may well have been in the Resistance - Melville has said that underworld methods and contacts were vital to both Resistance and Gestapo - as their knowledge of torture techniques and gun-smuggling suggests. But the Resistance were absolutely crucial to their time and place, whereas Max and his friends are resolutely out of time, relics from the past who can only play at assimilation - the recurring motif of Max's harmonica theme suggests a man literally stuck in a groove. Max himself exists in a paralell world to the realities of a 1950s France nowhere to be seen on screen, a revenant infernally condemned to repeat mistakes and watch old friends die.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Celler Is Better - No One Will Hear Him Scream." Jan. 23 2005
By bdlion - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Like a fine wine, TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI has aged wonderfully. Under the expert and loving hands of the folks at Criterion, we have an absolutely pristine print of this understated and refined French gangster movie. Watching the Criterion DVD is to fall completely into the film, as the restored black and white images are simply glorious.

This movie is not like today's heavy-handed violent gangster movies, but a more elegant and sophisticated presentation that focuses on character development and its themes of loyalty, betrayal, and an adherence to a moral code. Jean Gabin, who plays the urbane and respected criminal Max, is the soul of this movie, presenting Max as charming, stoic, and ruthless. Great detail is given to ordinary tasks, like the serving of a meal, brushing of one's teeth, etc., but the effect, instead of arty, goes to the development of the characters and the portrayal of them as regular folks.

Lest you believe this is a slow talky picture, there are moments of explosive violence that will send a chill through you. Suspense is created through the most effective of methods: by what you don't see and what is filled in by one's own imagination. As the tension mounts in the movie, you will be glued to the screen gripping the arms of your chair with withering anticipation. They don't make 'em like this anymore, neither here nor in Europe. This movie is a fine example of both French cinema before the New Wave, and of the gangster genre.

In any language, TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI means film excellence, especially after the careful, painstaking restoration by Criterion Studios.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Gangster Tale with Class... Feb. 16 2005
By Kim Anehall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Class is often confused with style and fashion in the regards to how one dresses. In our contemporary society this confusion is frequently expressed through flamboyance, which is usually the result of how money talks. However, this vain perception of class has nothing to do with one's self conduct. Refinement, sophistication, and class are qualities that should be attached with characteristics such as trust, confidence, and mutual respect. These qualities are what define a gentleman. When people see a true gentleman they only see the exterior, and it is this exterior that money buys.

The days of gentlemen criminals are long gone. Films such as Scarface (1983), New Jack City (1991), or any of Takashi Miike's violent gangster illustrations depict the new style of gangsters that contemporary society is facing where disloyal and ill-mannered thugs roll in the direction of dough. These films visualize the frightening power money has on people. This could be seen up close in a grotesque manner in the brilliant Maria Full of Grace (2004) where humans are being regarded as pack mules. Touchez Pas Au Grisbi, which was shot over a half century ago, depicts the coming of this new criminal element.

Nostalgia swallows Jacques Becker's crime story about the aging criminal and gentleman Max (Jean Gabin). The story takes place in Paris where Max lives life with a women half his age while spending untold numbers of nights desiring the same meaningless affection from the women seeking their way into men's wallets. The many visits to the night clubs have led Max to discover that he has grown old, and many of the people around him are older. The life he once desired is no longer as appealing, as he decides that he wants to return home early. Max even discloses this to his friend Riton (René Dary) while having found out that Riton's young girlfriend has found a younger lover, as she has previously given Riton empty promises of love.

The professional life, which Max has chosen for himself is also undergoing a transformation. Younger generations are cutting into the growing drug business without the consideration of others, and these young newcomers show little class while they trample on everyone in their sight. Recently Max carried out a job that brought him and his partner Riton 50 million worth in Orly gold bars. This was to be Max's final job before retirement, however, the newcomers in the criminal underworld seem to want change his destiny.

Touchez Pas Au Grisbi is a stunning gangster tale where the old ways are to face off with the new. This is depicted through Max who is undergoing a personal life changing experience, as he is confronted by events around him that make him question what he is doing. The character that Jean Gabin delivers to the screen is marvelously multifaceted, as he portrays the gentleman thief by being a tender lover, clever diplomat, friendly patron, and firm interrogator. The cast around Gabin also displays nice work as they all accentuate Max's uniqueness by being fairly simple characters. Much is due to Becker's marvelous directing, which comes together through all the aspects of filmmaking. This eventually leaves the audience in a haze of bewilderment, as Touchez Pas Au Grisbi offers a complex and enriching cinematic experience.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic French gangster film . . . June 7 2006
By Ronald Scheer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This film, made in 1954, is an ironic look at an ageing gangster ready to go into retirement, having pulled off one last heist - several bars of gold - which gets him into a life and death conflict with several younger hoods plotting to steal it from him. He is accompanied by a long-time partner, and director Becker makes much of the friendship between them as they talk of getting too old for the life of night clubbing and show girls. Gabin is wonderful in this role, rarely smiling, often a little bored, while maintaining an air of gravitas appropriate for a suave, well dressed man of considerable reputation among his peers.

The film moves rather slowly as it sets up the situation while taking time to humanize the characters, but eventually there is excitement enough as a kidnapping leads to a dramatic car chase, automatic gunfire, and explosives. The script is tightly knit, taking place over a period of 36 hours, and the cinematography is impressive for the time, as so much was shot in the streets of night-time Paris or in the darkened countryside (actually the Riviera). A revealing "floor show" is also in stark contrast to the Production Code-regulated exposure of skin permitted in Hollywood films of the 1950s.

As the interviews on this DVD reveal, only Gabin among its cast (including Lino Venturra and a very young Jeanne Moreau) was known to film audiences at the time, and Gabin had long since ceased being a bankable "star." This film was a comeback role for him and it helped launch the careers of Venturra and Moreau. Altogether, this DVD re-release offers many pleasures for fans of film noir and landmarks of popular French cinema. The collection of interviews from various sources, including Lino Venturra and the film's composer, are especially informative.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gabin and Becker at their melancholy best Sept. 10 2010
By Trevor Willsmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Seen today, Touchez Pas Au Grisbi seems like Jean Gabin's last great role, but in 1954 it was seen as his comeback after a slew of disappointing post-war films that were generally fairly average on their own merits even when not compared to his remarkable run of pre-war classics. Certainly he was the right actor at the right time when his career, like the old-school thief he plays, was beginning to look like it was over. The old Gabin is still recognisable but the rot has set in, and it's that combination of a class act that has outlived his time that makes his perfect casting performance so remarkable. He's a bit of a moaner and feels his age: constantly weary, he's got to that time in his life when he wants to go to bed early because if he stays up after midnight he feels like he's working overtime. Far from the doomed romantics he specialised in during his Thirties prime, he's a faded man edging into the shadows - in one remarkable shot even a lit match casts no light on his face - in a film that takes a lot of the glamour off both its star and its genre. He and his longtime, not too smart partner have pulled their last job before the film even starts, and the inevitable violence and tragedy come from his attempts to keep his newly acquired `pension' - the grisbi (loot) of the title - from rival crooks.

There's no romance or honour among thieves here. From the clubs where the `dancers' do little more than walk across the stage to the restaurants that shun the slumming socialite crowd, it's a mediocre, artificial world they inhabit, where packs of criminals aren't loyal unless it suits them, where almost everyone either expresses disappointment or hides behind insincere clichéd expressions of admiration and loyalty. For director Jacques Becker how his low lives go about the everyday business of living is as important as the plot, and strangely it's surprisingly compelling too despite what is happening often being so mundane. You can feel the cold of the rarely used apartment he and René Dary's Riton eat their crackers and pate in before breaking out their pajamas, brushing their teeth and going to bed early just as vividly as you can feel the crisp night air of a roadside hostage exchange that goes disastrously wrong.

If that sounds perhaps too grim and austere, the film is anything but. Beautifully directed by Becker, whose reputation has sadly faded over the years - indeed, for a long time this, perhaps his most famous film, was out of circulation in English speaking territories - and featuring Lino Ventura in his first role and an early appearance by Jeanne Moreau, it's one of the best French thrillers ever made and it's easy to see why it's been such a huge influence on the crime genre. The UK DVD is a good presentation as is the original StudioCanal French DVD, but not unexpectedly, Criterion's Region 1 NTSC DVD outdoes it as far as supplements go: a lengthy extract from French TV series Cinéastes de Notre Temps, an entertaining and insightful 2002 interview with supporting player Daniel Cauchy, who reveals why his character really didn't make it to the film's finale, a 1972 interview with Lino Ventura, a 1978 interview with composer Jean Wiener, the original French theatrical trailer and detailed liner notes.
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